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I am a PhD student in engineering in an university in Canada. I am close to completion of my thesis but I am not very proud of my work. I have couple of publications from my work, all in decent journals. I feel that I have not utilized the opportunities available to me and wasted time in personal activities that did nothing to my CV.

Owing to my inadequate performance during PhD. I am constantly regretting my decision of pursuing higher studies. I was never a star student. My undergrad was from a very low ranking school where I had received very average grades. However, I somehow got into the top graduate school where too I struggled in getting average grades. My research there was very unimpressive and not a single professor urged me to pursue PhD. My master's advisor even expressed shock when I had asked for his recommendation for applying to PhD school.

However, luck struck again, and I got into a reputed PhD program. My advisor has had a lot of patience with me. She is a hands off kind of person, but she has never complained about my performance till date. Now as I am completing my thesis, I am confused about my future career trajectory.

I feel like I do not belong to academia or research industry as I don't possess the necessary skills (sound technical skills, exceptional analytical skills and focus). I feel like a failure who is in a wrong profession. I really don't know what to do now.

My only reason for pursuing PhD in my current field of study was that I loved the process of researching. I loved finding reason behind why a physical phenomenon occurs. But, I now feel that just love for research is not an adequate reason for doing PhD or master's degree.

In short; I have realized that I am not not suitable for academia or research industry as I don't possess the necessary skills for pursuing research. I should have taken the engineering job after my undergrad as I was never built for a life in research.

marked as duplicate by henning, user68958, FuzzyLeapfrog, Dmitry Grigoryev, Bryan Krause Apr 24 at 16:01

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    I have couple of publications from my work, all in decent journals. That's something to be proud of. More than I had after completing my PhD. – henning Apr 24 at 8:29
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    Whether or not a career in academia is suitable for you is hard to say for us who don't know you. Be aware though that impostor syndrome is common among researchers, so you may not necessarily be the best judge of your own capacities. Why not ask your advisor what she thinks? – RafG Apr 24 at 11:23
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    You can still take a engineering job with a PhD the only disadvantage now is that you have to live with the higher income compared to a engineer with "only" a bachelor degree. – GittingGud Apr 24 at 11:59
  • Here is an easy way to find out: would you still do research if you have 1 million dollar ? Yes - remain in academia, No - you are suitable for industry. – The man of your dream Apr 25 at 21:34
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So you are going to finish your PhD soon and you are thinking about what to do?

I understand your regrets, but they don't help you (as you probably know yourself).

The question remains: What are your options now?

First of all, you do not make a decision for your entire life. You can start a research position and leave it after three years, it is not really helpful to try to plan for 30 years of more. You can either try to get a research position after your PhD, and if you get one, decide again after two to three years. Or you can look for challenging positions in the industry. Both approaches are entirely sensible.

Just don't consider leaving academia as a failure. Most people leave academia sooner or earlier and many find an interesting, good job.

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    This is a great answer for anything related to one's career. You don't have to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life; figure out what you want to do now, and if that changes down the road then adjust accordingly. That's been the story of my career (I'm 10 years in now after 6 years of grad school), and its worked well for me. – bob Apr 24 at 13:13
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I don't want this to sound wrong, but those "star" researchers / inventors need support and there are many places where competent people are needed.

The other thing you don't touch on is teaching - do you enjoy seeing others benefit when you explain something? If that gives you a buzz, then check out that direction.

Best wishes anyway.

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You say

My only reason for pursuing PhD in my current field of study was that I loved the process of researching.

There. That's the core. Do what you love. If you won't, you'll regret it for the rest of your life.

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